Inside the Ravens' NFL draft

OWINGS MILLS -- Here's Raven Insider's look back at the Baltimore Ravens' draft. VIP subscribers, please keep reading for further details.

1. In a post-draft interview, Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta said the Ravens had Central Michigan offensive tackle Joe Staley on the phone when the San Francisco 49ers leapfrogged them in a trade and drafted the best left tackle remaining on the draft board.
The Ravens had Auburn offensive guard Ben Grubbs rated highly and regard him as more ready to play in the NFL initially than Staley, who has a great upside. If both blockers had been available at No. 29, the Ravens would have likely traded back three to four spots and still got one of those two players and picked up an extra draft pick in the second round.
2. The Ravens ranked Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn among their top 20 prospects, but were unsuccessful in trade-up scenarios due to how much it would cost and a lack of ammunition with no third-round draft pick. DeCosta acknowledged that it's a quarterback-driven league, which drives up the value on these so-called franchise quarterbacks.
3. The Ravens really liked versatile University of Miami linebacker Jon Beason, who went to the Carolina Panthers at No. 25 overall. They couldn't hide how much they liked him during pre-draft interviews, which is the time to throw up smokescreens. I think they would have definitely drafted Beason if he had made it to them at No. 29 of the first round, but they never had to make that decision.
4. DeCosta was extremely complimentary of the Browns drafting Brady Quinn and taking that gamble on giving away next year's first-round draft pick. He acknowledged that obviously Browns general manager Phil Savage, the Ravens' former top scout that used to have DeCosta's job as general manager Ozzie Newsome's right-hand man, and Browns coach Romeo Crennel are fighting for their jobs. The seats are definitely getting hot along the shores of Lake Erie.
5. DeCosta called Kansas State wide receiver Yamon Figurs, whom the Ravens considered worthy of picking at No. 61 overall of the second round but drafted at No. 74 overall in the third round, the fastest player he has ever watched on film. Figurs ran the 40-yard dash in a scorching 4.30 seconds at the NFL scouting combine.
A friend of mine, though, Jeff Martin, who used to cover the Ravens for the York Daily Record and has covered Figurs for the past two years for the Wichita Eagle (Kan.), says there are major holes in Figurs' game. He claims that Figurs' field speed doesn't match his stop watch speed, noting how he was caught from behind on long receptions.
Figurs has a history of academic problems and will be a 24-year-old rookie. He seemed to really benefit from a really well-timed strong performance against Texas, which had two high draft picks out of its secondary in Aaron Ross and Cedric Griffin, along with the scouting combine. Mel Kiper criticized Figurs for having small hands and dropping passes at the combine.
The main reason they picked Figurs is that B.J. Sams will be a unrestricted free agent after this season, faces his second DUI trial May 15 and could possibly face a suspension from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, and Sams is coming off a fractured ankle that required surgery and could keep him out until training camp.
I'm not doubting the Ravens or DeCosta's acumen, but I'm keeping Martin's warning in mind as I watch Figurs enter the NFL. Let's see how he does. This isn't the time for instant judgments, so let's keep an open mind on all of these guys.
6. Iowa right tackle-guard Marshal Yanda, one of DeCosta's "red-star" guys along with Grubbs and Figurs, was called the toughest player he's ever coached by Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz, a former Ravens offensive line coach who stays in close contact with Newsome.
Yanda grew up on a pig farm, and he plays the game down and dirty. He absolutely floored an Iowa State linebacker last year on a crack back block. You should check it out on YouTube. Yanda is slated to compete with converted left tackle Adam Terry at right tackle. The Ravens had assigned second-round grade to Yanda.
7. In the second day of the draft, the Ravens preferred South Florida linebacker Stephen Nicholas, who visited the Ravens' training complex prior to the draft along with Figurs. However, Nicholas was picked by the Atlanta Falcons at No. 109 overall of the fourth round.
So, Baltimore opted for speedy Florida International linebacker Antwan Barnes, the fastest and strongest linebacker at the scouting combine with 4.45 speed and 31 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press. He's faster than Adalius Thomas, albeit an inch shorter and 30 pounds lighter. DeCosta thought the Indianapolis Colts would pick Barnes after them, but Baltimore got him at No. 134 overall.
Off-topic: Nicholas, who spilled the beans about Troy Smith visiting Baltimore when he visited the Ravens, was the guy who ate two porterhouse steaks on his visit. I think it was at Ruth's Chris Steak House. Free plug for them. Can you hook a hungry writer up?
8. The Ravens ranked Alabama fullback Le'Ron McClain just behind Barnes, and they were overjoyed to get the best pure blocking fullback in the draft three picks later. DeCosta acknowledged that the Arizona Cardinals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers wanted to trade up to get McClain, but compensatory picks can't be exchanged according to NFL guidelines.
9. Baltimore threw drowning Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith a life preserver with the final pick of the fifth round. DeCosta opined that the BCS title game meltdown -- 4 for 14, 35 yards, one interception, five sacks -- hurt him more than barely being 6-foot-tall. DeCosta said that Baltimore watched the Ohio State star six times in person and 15 times on film.
They like his upside. They're not anointing him as the quarterback of the future, but they like his swagger and winning ability and attitude. They want to see how he develops and are going to be patient this time. I think the height, bad combine (overweight and inaccurate), Fiesta Bowl debacle and two off-field incidents hurt Smith a lot.
The height is a legitimate factor. Most short quarterbacks bomb. Drew Brees is the exception, not the rule in the NFL.
10. The Ravens were very happy to get big Michigan linebacker Prescott Burgess with their last pick, a sixth-rounder and 207th overall. When they called his cell phone, it was busy. He was on the line with the New England Patriots, who planned to pick the 6-foot-3, 240-pound bruiser.
Baltimore called the home phone, got his mother on the phone and talked to him. Burgess said that New England said they planned to pick him with the selection following Baltimore, and Newsome informed him that he was going to be a Raven instead.
Final point: According to DeCosta, he had Ben Grubbs as their first-round pick in their envelope prediction predraft exercise along with national scout Joe Hortiz, an Auburn graduate, with director of football administrator Pat Moriarty opting for USC center Ryan Kalil, defensive coordinator Rex Ryan predicting Grubbs at No. 29 and Notre Dame defensive end/outside linebacker Victor Abiamiri (Gilman) at No. 61, East Coast scout Joe Douglas predicted Grubbs and Penn State linebacker Paul Posluzny in the second round, another scout predicting Kalil and Figurs with another area scout saying Grubbs and hard-hitting, opportunistic Utah safety-cornerback Eric Weddle.
DeCosta said he forecasted Grubbs and Figurs as the Ravens' first two picks. He told me Sunday that he's been right four years in a row now, including Haloti Ngata and Mark Clayton. For the record, I talked up Grubbs on the radio and mentioned him several times in the newspaper, but they did a good job of hiding their strongest intentions.
When we talked offensive linemen, DeCosta never dwelled on Grubbs or would not bring him up unless prompted. He was a good poker player in that respect. I really thought they liked Kalil more than Grubbs and Blalock, but wondered if I was being sold a bag of goods. I'm glad I was pretty noncommittal as far as who they would pick except that it would probably be an offensive lineman and likely Staley, Kalil, Grubbs or Texas' Justin Blalock.

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